I remember the phase in my life when the last of my siblings left for college (I’m the oldest of 3 – by 6 years). My own stay at home Mom (who had started back to work only a couple of years earlier) was faced with the challenge of how to deal with this new phase of her Motherhood. There she was.. working a somewhat entry-level position, even though she possessed a college degree and years of experience running a very busy household (and at times even her own home-based business). I watched her struggle to rediscover herself: her passions, her hobbies, her gifts.. and I watched her struggle (or at least what I perceived as her struggling) with her confidence in herself. It seemed from the outside that she defaulted to going back to the point in her life before she was identified by her children.. and that’s where she began to rediscover the things she used to identify herself with (like art and books and learning new things). It’s hard to know who you are when you’ve been identified by other people for so long and then suddenly those people aren’t present in your daily life. I didn’t have kids at the time, but the lesson I found in watching her struck a chord in me that has – in a more dormant mode – stayed with me.*
As I’ve mentioned in prior posts I haven’t always applied my parenting theories to my real motherhood experience. At least in theory, I have carried with me what I gathered from my mom – and that is this: It is extraordinarily important to maintain a sense of YOURSELF in the midst of your motherhood. (..so much easier said, than done.)
I have been determined (albeit at times, only in my head) that my job was to teach my kids what they needed to learn to go out into the world and be successful on their own.. and to instill in them knowledge that they are loved. My end goal being that when my three little birds** fly the coop, and I’m left with an empty nest, I will have maintained enough of a life separate from them that I will not be sad, lonely, and lost. – Hang around about 10 more years and lets check back to see how well (or poorly) I do.
For me that meant making time for friendships that aren’t tied to my children, maintaining AND developing hobbies, spending time with “the girls”, having date nights with my husband, and keeping my hand in things tied to my old professional world.
Let me back up and get real for a minute. For the first 8 or so years of my motherhood, my husband was a traveling road warrior, and I was at home with 3 young children, changing 2 sets of diapers, dealing with an allergy-ridden/asthmatic child who was always on breathing treatments, and at times doing contract work from home. Honestly, I was in pure survival mode. Just getting everyone fed, bathed*** and vaccinated (while hoping to hold on to some shred of sanity) was all I could muster in the way of goals. I survived it. Thank goodness. And I feel pretty good about the fact that I have invested in our future economy, because my kids will no doubt require paying a regular therapist to help them deal with the repercussions of those early years.
But now the kids all go to the toilet on their own (though wiping and flushing are still questionable. And infuriating.) They can all take showers by themselves (though I still have to go in at least twice a week and ensure that things like soap and shampoo are actually being used. Oh, and that my youngest isn’t flooding the house. Yes. Habit learned by conditioning.) And as for the vaccines… well, are they really all that important?
Since the kids have a little more independence and my husband took a new NON-TRAVELING job 4 years ago, I’ve been able to do a better job of putting this parenting theory into action in my motherhood. I have gotten involved with my Alma Mater’s local Alumni Association Board, taken up my yoga practice, trained for and run a sprint triathlon and a half marathon with a dear mom-friend, volunteered to publish the PTO Newsletter, taken some girls only trips, learned to surf and found fun ways around the house to get my “creative fix”. My husband and I go out much more regularly without the kids (much to my daughters’ dismay) and we take at least one trip together each year without our little Maniacs.
I have also started the practice of spending some time in reflection and introspection at the beginning of each New Year. I take a look back at the year before, thinking about my accomplishments. Then I ask myself if they’re balanced. Do they reflect the whole person I want to be? Are there accomplishments on my list that don’t aren’t “part of my motherhood”? — Next step. Set out some goals for myself for the following year. In an effort to diversify and develop more of myself than just my motherhood I have set the following goals for 2012:
- Read more. Specifically, I have a list of books that I want to read this year. Reading isn’t a luxury many tired moms of toddlers can afford. Even now that the kids are older, I find it hard. If you are like me, by the time the kids are in bed and all the daily work done, your brain is too tired to process the words yours eyes are perusing. Go ahead.. read it 3 times and then try to tell me what you just read. (Or is this just me and my Child-Induced ADD?)
- Get Organized (More Efficient). Working on it. Pinterest required. I’ve been focused on trying to implement organization in my home that works with my tendencies. (Like the fact that no matter how great my intentions, I do not stay on top of the filing. Or my junk drawer. Or hanging the clothes in my closet…. You get the picture.) 6 weeks into the New Year, I have managed to overhaul the junk drawer, my closet, the laundry room and the kids’ school paperwork — and most importantly, I am maintaining it. I know it’s only been a matter of weeks, but that’s big for me. Don’t judge.
- Learn to play tennis. Just because it’s something new that I’ve always wanted to be able to do. I’m thinking that the self-taught matches I’ve been having with my friends aren’t quite going to get me to my goal. I may require the services of a professional tennis coach, seeing as I have hit myself with my racket – leaving painful bruises – each and every time we have played.
- Volunteer outside of their Schools!! The idea for this one began last year when my son needed to have volunteer hours for National Jr. Honor Society. It made me realize that this was another area of my motherhood where I was failing miserably at putting my theories into practice. So, I’m working on it. Outside of my normal school volunteering, I’m in the process of finding volunteer opportunities for myself.. one that is a fun passion of mine and one that is more service oriented. Hopefully, I’ll get those rolling and be able to share more later.
Though it wasn’t on the list, I can add THIS BLOG as #5. WooHoo. Bonus points!
Now the goals are in writing for the world to see. Just maybe that will help me hold to them. And maybe when my kids watch me shoo them from the nest, they’ll see me transition seamlessly into being Just Me (and Just Us with my husband.)
But then.. where will they learn a lesson in that?
Thank you, Mom.
* I hope she doesn’t mind me sharing my perceptions (although in actuality, my view of it may not be an accurate representation of how she really felt while experiencing it.) It’s just one of the many things my Mom taught me without realizing she was teaching.. she’s just that good.
**Hope you caught the reference to one of the greatest songs ever. I love Bob Marley.
*** OK, this didn’t always apply to me, but at least the kids were bathed.